The Course Of – Whatever – Never Did Run Smooth (5) ~ Early Evening Thoughts

–continuing from night before last and posts prior

So,leaving the awe-struck Julius Caesar cast behind as they work on the Parker Hall stage, let us pick-up a bit on the star-crossed cast of Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The problem with Shakespeare at any time and any of this plays is quite simple. In the comedies (and portions of the tragedies) he is quite a lewd..uh..crude..um..socially unacceptable..OK…earthy writer. One of the joys of teaching Shakespeare in High School is that the students absolutely “get it.” Many parents, School Boards and even some English teachers fall into the trap of placing an aura around The Bard.

Yes, he did manage to write much that was tremendously powerful and amazing lyrical poetry within the structure of his plays and theater, as well as his sharp, unerring and amazing understanding of power, people and life … however … and it’s a big however … the “groundlings” and even those in the boxes had so much competing for their attention outside of the theater that he had to make sure they were completely entertained in a manner they were accustomed … raunchy, ribald humor at that!!

Once a student discovers that aspect of the plays ~ the hunt is on! And I absolutely pity any teacher who has no idea just how raunchy and ribald Shakespeare can get trying to handle a class full of “hormones in tennis shoes” reading the comedies…or discovering the meaning of “the two backed beast” in Othello.

On of the advantages I had in my High School Shakespeare Tragedy classes was that I knew what was ahead. And I basically headed it off at the pass. My classes were so busy with themes, character work and dramatic archs – or lack thereof – that while I was unafraid to acknowledge their “amazing” dirty joke discoveries, I’d pull the discussion back to the matters at hand.

To me, his ability to write low and high-brow in the same play was nothing more than another example of his intellect and writer’s gift. OK, it also was a tribute to the ability of the acting company at the time to adapt some of what he wrote – but as far as I am concerned, most of the work was his. And also, his ability to write wonderful humor that people in his day would understand, but not let it get in the way of what else he had to say, is nothing short of awe inspiring to me. And remember, he did have to be careful of what he said, lest he get into political trouble ~ which did occur upon occasion.

So now, as I faced adapting one of his wildest romps to an age appropriate level, the teacher and I did decide to play on the “aura” that surrounds his plays. I made the more obvious deletions and took some of the “in” out of the wilder “innuendos.” And as far as the more subtle things? We took the course of ignorance just might be bliss, and quite forgivable.

I’d mentioned that one of the biggest problems was Bottom’s line about “a man would be an ass.” The was just one word that, for whatever reasons, had to either go or be changed. We tried all sorts of things. We tried leaving it out ~ big hole to anyone who knows the play. We tried using the word donkey ~ that just didn’t even elicit a giggle from anyone.

As I mentioned before, when I was left in the hospital with my arm hanging straight up, the answer came to me and quite frankly it had been staring me from the page the entire time. When I told the teacher my solution, we both laughed. When I shared the solution with the person playing Bottom, I was rewarded the one of the deepest guffaws I’ve been blessed with in all the plays I’ve directed.

The passage in question ~

BOTTOM ~

[Awaking] When my cue comes, call me, and I will
answer: my next is, ‘Most fair Pyramus.’ Heigh-ho!
Peter Quince! Flute, the bellows-mender! Snout,
the tinker! Starveling! God’s my life, stolen
hence, and left me asleep! I have had a most rare
vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to
say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go
about to expound this dream. Methought I was–there
is no man can tell what. Methought I was,–and
methought I had,–but man is but a patched fool, if
he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye
of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream
was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of
this dream: it shall be called Bottom’s Dream,
because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the
latter end of a play, before the duke:
peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall
sing it at her death.

The way we adapted it ~
BOTTOM[Awaking] When my cue comes, call me, and I will
answer: my next is, ‘Most fair Pyramus.’ Heigh-ho!
Peter Quince! Flute, the bellows-mender! Snout,
the tinker! Starveling! The have gone away and left me asleep!

I have had a most rare vision.

I have had a dream, past the ability of man to
say what dream it was: I thought I was– I thought I was,–and
I thought I had–but man is but a complete fool, if
he will say what I thought I had…If any man tries to tell this dream, he is but an (he reaches up and feels for his missing ears – then shrugs at the audience.)
The eye of man has not heard, the ear of man has not
seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream
was.

I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of
this dream: it shall be called Bottom’s Dream,
because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the
latter end of a play, before the duke:
peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall
sing it at her death.

There were other people who were involved in getting this play ready for performance.
The 4th grade class decided (on their own I might add) to take on the project of doing the scenery for Midsummer Night’s Dream. This consisted of burlap type fabric tubes that could be used for columns at the various interior places in the play … they would be able to be raised and lowered … and a delightful enormous burlap tree (cut-out ~ based on the school symbol “The Lyre Tree) that was painted and decorated, which would suffice for all the forest scenes. This could also be raised and lowered. The raising and lowering was not as smooth as a Broadway or East End production, but they were incredibly pleased anyway.

–more Sunday.

I will be attending Gamer Musicon 90 at the Symphony tomorrow which consists of two different concerts using music from on-line and Xbox/Playstation games and various vendor demonstrations of new games. There are also two panel discussions with people from Blizzard and such. It will be fun and quite long. The first concert starts at 3:00pm and the second at 7:30pm ~ this concert will end at 10:00pm. I will end most likely shortly after that!!

One thought on “The Course Of – Whatever – Never Did Run Smooth (5) ~ Early Evening Thoughts

  1. I am really enjoying your storyYou are amazing. I liked your solution for Bottoms line. What a beautiful stage in the top picture Is that at the school and the one with the ears is that bottom. Did you take part in the play

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